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Monday, July 31, 2006

Camellia Facts And Pictures

On February 18, 1893, Alabama adopted the goldenrod as the official flower—of the United States! On September 6, 1927, it was adopted as Alabama's state flower. The yellowhammer was adopted as the state bird on the same day.

In 1927, the goldenrod was designated as state flower, but was replaced by the camellia, an exotic flower, possibly due to the erroneous idea that goldenrod pollen was annoying to those who are allergy-prone (actually, the goldenrod is falsely blamed for reactions caused by ragweed). Camellia colors include white, pink, red, and mixtures. Some have suggested that red and red-and-white camellias represent the state, matching the red and white of the Alabama flag.

Alabama's state flower is the only symbol not native to Alabama. It's from Asia. Camellias are named for G.J. Kamel, a Jesuit priest who traveled in Asia in the seventeenth century. The introduction of Camellia japonica L. in Italy is dated about 1760, but only during the XIXth century this species became popular. Many Italian nurserymen started growing Camellias at that time and soon this business became of remarkable importance. In two areas, the Lucchesia (Tuscany) and the lake Maggiore zone, camellia production was famous, due to the local nurserymen, breeders, and collectors. In these areas camellias were grown in a great number of gardens and still today it is possible to find old specimens.

Camellias are large, attractive, broad-leaved, evergreen shrubs that are highly prized for their flowers, which bloom from winter to spring. There are more than 2,300 named cultivars registered with the American Camellia Society.

In South Carolina the primary camellias used include cultivars of Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica), Sasanqua camellia (C. sasanqua), tea-oil camellia (C. oleifera), other species (C. sinensis or tea camellia) and many hybrids using two other species extensively (C. reticulata and C. salvenensis).

Camellia japonica 'Spring Fever'

A mulch of peat will help keep the roots cool in summer. They flower in the spring, ie August to October in our southern gardens. The flowers are showy and come in a range of colours from white to pink to rosy red. They can be double or single, large (as the Reticulata's) or small (like the Miniatures).

Camellia japonica 'Crimson Candles'

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Camellia japonica

Common Names: camellia, japonicas
Family: Theaceae (tea family)

The Camellia produces flowers up to 5 in (12.7 cm) wide with yellow centers and rounded overlapping petals, much like a rose. The flowers are prized, but so are the glossy leaves that stay a deep, shiny green all year. It is a slow grower, but eventually will reach up to 20 ft (6.1 m) tall. Camellias flower from late winter to early spring. Over 3,000 varieties, cultivars and hybrids of Camellia japonica are cultivated.

A native of China, camellias are a traditional favorite across the southeastern U.S. Throughout the winter, camellias brighten the landscape, from sandy migrant workers' camps to white-columned plantation homes.

Camellias like acid soil with plenty of moisture. Since early morning sun may cause petals to become limp and brown, an ideal location would be west of a structure or barrier wall. Prune in spring after flowering. Keep other plants a safe distance away and apply mulch to protect the camellia's shallow roots.

Growing Tips

These make fine garden plants in sheltered areas if the soil in which they are growing is acid rather than alkaline.

Perhaps not so good for the indoor location, they are nevertheless excellent plants for porches and conservatiories that offer a little shelter from the elements. Plants that are grown from seed sown in the spring, or from cduttings rooted in the autumn, can be purchased in small pots from good retailers.

With careful handling these samll plantgs can be gradually potted on until they are in containers of 25cm in diameter - use the acid soil recommended for camellias at each potting stage, and collect rain water for watering.

In time plants of about 150cm in height will have developed, and in early spring there can surely be nothigun more appealing than camellia blooms in white, pink or red.

Light: Prefers partial shade, but they need more sun in colder climates.

Moisture: Prefers rich moist soil, but is adaptable.

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9. Camellias are hardy, but for extra protection, apply mulch and cover flower buds if frost threatens.

Propagation: Take semi-ripe cuttings from late summer to winter (use rooting hormone). Can also be air-layered in spring.

To encourage bloom: Maintain cool condition.

This very popular shrub is used in borders and in formation hedges. Use it for specimen plants on the lawn and for colorful accents near outdoor living areas. Camellias are especially attractive and easy to grow when planted under a canopy of live oaks and pine trees that provide broken shade. It is tolerant of urban conditions if maintained, and can also be used in containers.


The genus was named for George Kamel, a Jesuit missionary who travelled in Asia and studied the flora of the Philippines. Red camellias symbolize intrinsic worth and white blossoms mean loveliness. Displayed at Korean weddings as far back as 1200 BC, camellias represent longevity and faithfulness.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Scientific Classification
Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Ericales
Family Theaceae
Genus Camellia

Camellia (Tsubaki in Japanese) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae, native to eastern and southern Asia from the Himalaya east to Japan and Indonesia. There is some controversy over the number of existent species, with anything from 100–250 species being accepted. The genus was named by Linnaeus after Fr. Georg Joseph Kamel S.J., a Jesuit botanist.

They are evergreen shrubs and small trees from 2-20 m tall. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, thick, serrated, usually glossy, and 3–17 cm long. The flowers are large and conspicuous, 1–12 cm diameter, with (in natural conditions) 5–9 petals; colour varies from white to pink and red, and yellow in a few species. The fruit is a dry capsule subdivided into 1–5 compartments, each containing 1–8 seeds.

The genus is generally adapted to acidic soils, and does not grow well on chalk or other calcium rich soils. Most species also have a high rainfall requirement and will not tolerate drought.

Camellia species are used as food plants by the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species.

Cultivation And Uses

Carmellia sinensis

Carmellia sinensis is of major commercial importance because tea is made from its leaves. Tea oil is a sweet seasoning and cooking oil made by pressing the seeds of Camellia sinensis or Camellia oleifera

Double flowers Camellia

Many other camellias are grown as ornamental plants for their flowers; about 3,000 cultivars and hybrids have been selected, many with double flowers. Camellia japonica (often simply called Camellia) is the most prominent species in cultivation, with over 2,000 named cultivars; next are C. reticulata, with over 400 named cultivars, and C. sasquana, with over 300 named cultivars. Popular hybrids include C. × hiemalis (C. japonica × C. sasquana) and C. × williamsii (C. japonica × C. salouenensis). They are highly valued in Japan and elsewhere for their very early flowering, often among the first flowers to appear in the late winter. Late frosts can damage the flowers.

Camellia japonica 'Myrtifolia'

Camellias have a slow growth rate. Typically they will grow about 30 centimetres a year until mature although this varies depending on variety and location.

Camellia japonica is the state flower of Alabama as well as the city flower of the Chinese municipality Chongqing.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Browallia speciosa (Bush Violet)

Bush violet is a bushy plant that is covered with violet, blue, or white star-shaped flowers in summer. It grows to 24 inches tall and across, and works well as part of a mixed planting in hanging baskets and window boxes. Unlike other Browallias, the Bush Violet is a perennial that will stay green through winter in areas with mild winters.

The flower colouring of B. speciosa ranges from blue to violet-blue, but there are white varieties available. It should be reasonably easy to raise new plants from seed on the windowsill for the person who is moderately competent with indoor plants.

Sow seed in spring in peat to wh
ich a little sharp sand has been added, and after sowing just cover the seed with a fine layer of sand. Place a sheet of glass over the container holding the seed, and over the glass place a sheet of newspaper until the seed has germinated. When large enought to handle, the seedlings can be pricked off into a very peaty mixture with resonable space for seedlings to develop. Subsequently, transfer the tiny plants to small pots filled with loam-based mixture and allow to grow on.

From then on keep them moist, fed, and in good light. Discard the plants after they have flowered.

Special growing tips
Browallia is not suited to cool zones. Outdoors, it grows best in a partially shaded site where it will get the half-day of sun it needs, protected from strong winds. While not fussy about soil type, good drainage is essential; grow only in hanging baskets, containers, or raised beds if drainage is doubtful. Keep the soil evenly moist.

Fertilize with compost or all-purpose fertilizer when the plants start to bud; overfeeding will limit flower production. For bushy, well-branched plants, pinch off the stem tips of young Browallia once or twice. If the plants look tired by midsummer, cut them back by half to encourage new flower production. Grow Browallia from seed sown indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the l
ast frost and left uncovered. Cuttings can be taken at any time.

Pests/problems to look out for: Whiteflies and aphids. Tomato spotted wilt virus and fungal spots may occur.

Winter care: Browallia makes an excellent flowering winter houseplant; dig and pot up six to eight weeks before the first fall frost, cut back the plants severely, and place on a sunny windowsill. Mist the leaves occasionally.

To encourage bloom: Keep plants cool and fed during the summer months.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Schefflera arboricola

Scientific Classification

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopsida
Order Apiales
Family Araliaceae
Genus Schefflera
Species S. arboricola

Schefflera arboricola (synonymy Heptapleurum arboricolum) is a flowering plant in the family Araliaceae, native to Taiwan and Hainan. It is an evergreen shrub growing to 3-4 m tall, with weak, often trailing stems scrambling over other vegetation. The leaves are palmately compound, with 7-9 leaflets, the leaflets 9-20 cm long and 4-10 cm broad (though often smaller in cultivation). The flowers are produced in a 20 cm panicle of small umbels, each umbel 7-10 mm diameter with 5-10 flowers.

Cultivation And Uses

It is commonly grown as a houseplant, popular for its tolerance of neglect and poor growing conditions. Numerous cultivars have been selected for variations in leaf colour and pattern, often variegated with creamy -white to yellow edges or centres, and dwarf forms. It is also used for bonsai.

Schefflera arboricola

Special Care

Arboricola is started from seed, cuttings and air-layers, and then grown in full sun to produce thick full plants. Usually the arb's you'll find in the garden center will be of the bush form. These bushes are full, round and thick with leaves which measure 4 6 inches across forming a "fingered umbrella". The dwarf scheff is also grown in tree forms, bonsai and braided just like Ficus trees.

Whichever form you get remember that when the plant moves inside it is going to go through a period of acclimating. Expect the plant to thin out and loose some leaves.

The arboricola can adapt to a wide variety of light levels but prefers higher light if possible. If left alone the plant can stretch and grow "out of shape". It's easy to keep them in shape with occasional selective pruning. Fortunately, just like a Ficus the dwarf Schefflera can also handle some radical pruning and come back strongly. So don't be afraid to prune the plant when needed.

Dwarf umbrella plant (Araliaceae)

If you see leaves turning black and dropping off it's a good signal that the soil is staying too wet or moist. On the flip side the leaf tips wrinkle if they are too dry.

These plants have a pretty extensive root system and can even grow climbing a tree. They also seek water when being grown outside. As with most plants used indoors, arboricola does not like to sit in water.

The Schefflera is in the Aralia family and like many of the plants from this family spider mites like this plant. Clean the plant regularly and don't forget the undersides where the mites like to hang out.

Remember when caring for your dwarf schefflera

  • Don't keep the plant wet
  • Place the plant in as bright an area as you can
  • Watch out for mites
  • Don't be afraid to prune when needed

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island P
ine (Araucaria heterophylla) is one of the relatively few conifers of the southern hemisphere. It's reportedly capable of attaining 200 feet in height, but in most tropical areas, seldom exceeds half that. As a landscape tree, it grows ramrod straight with whorled branches arising at right angles to the main trunk. These swoop down in a graceful sweep creating a picturesque form for older trees.

A majestic tropical tree that originates from New Zealand, Araucaria excelsa is a marvellous foliage plant when carefully treated and not subjected to very high temperatures, which can be delilitating. Hot conditions cause normally turgid foliage to droop and become very thin. These elegant plants are best suited to important and spacious locations that will allow full development.

Araucaria excelsa

During early development plants should be allowed to fill their pots with roots before being potted on into slightly larger containers, using a loam-based potting mixture. When going into their final pots of 20 -25 cm diameter, the amount of loam should be increased to encourage slower but firmer growth. New plants can be raised from seed, but it is better to purchase small plants and grow them on. Few pests trouble these pines, but excessive watering, especially in poor light, will cause browning and eventual loss of needles.

A pine tree . . . that can be a houseplant. If you're looking for something green to add to a sunny room in your house, the Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is a perfect choice. It is easy to maintain, will grow to fit its container and surroundings, plus can double as a Christmas tree if desired. During the holidays, the Norfolk Island Pine is easy to find at garden and home improvement stores.

Special Care

Norfolk Island pines are considered easy plants to grow if you give them the right conditions. They prefer bright, indirect light, such as an eastern or western exposure where they will get one to two hours of sunlight a day. They do not require as much water as other common houseplants. In fact, they do not tolerate saturated soil. It is difficult to say how often a Norfolk Island pine will need watering.

Pot size, pot type, plant size, average room temperature, room lighting, and humidity all will influence the amount and frequency of watering. A good rule of thumb is to feel the soil. If it feels slightly dry to the touch, apply enough water to allow some to drain out the holes in the bottom of the container. Norfolk Island pines like the soil moist around their roots, but never wet. The lower limbs may turn brown and fall off if the soil is kept too wet or allowed to dry out. Other factors, such as low humidity levels and insufficient light, may also cause the lower limbs to drop off.

Norfolk Island pines do not require much fertilizer. Apply a soluble fertilizer with the watering every three or four months. Use the recommended rate on the label. They resent being repotted so only repot them every three or four years in the spring. Use a well-drained commercial potting soil mix and a container only slightly larger than the one it was growing in.

Avoid overpotting of young plants.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Scientific Classification
Kingdom Plantae
Division Pinophyta

Class Pinopsida

Order Pinales

Family Araucariaceae

Genus Araucaria

Araucaria bidwillii

is a genus of coniferous trees in the family Araucariaceae. There are 19 species in the genus, with a highly disjunct distribution in New Caledonia (where 13 species are endemic), Norfolk Island, eastern Australia, New Guinea, Argentina, Chile and Southern Brazil.

Many if not all current populations are relictual and restricted. They are found in forest and maquis shrubland, with an affinity for exposed sites. These columnar trees are living fossils, dating back to early in the Mesozoic age. Fossil records show that the genus also formerly occurred in the northern hemisphere until the end of the Cretaceous period.

The monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana)

The genus is familiar to many people as the genus of the distinctive Monkey puzzle Araucaria araucana. The genus is named after the Arauco Indians of central Chile whose territory incorporates natural stands of this species, where it is known as the Pehuén. These Native Americans, who name themselves the Pehuenche ('people of the Pehuén'), harvest the seeds extensively for food. No distinct vernacular name exists for the genus; many are erroneously called 'pine', despite their being only very distantly related to pines (Pinus).

They are mainly large trees with a massive erect stem, reaching a height of 30-80 m. The horizontal, spreading branches grow in whorls and are covered with leathery or needle-like leaves. In some species, the leaves are narrow awl-shaped and lanceolate, barely overlapping each other, in others they are broad and flat, and overlap broadly.

The trees are mostly dioecious, with male and female cones found on separate trees, though occasional individuals are monoecious or change sex with time. The female cones, usually high on the top of the tree, are globose, and vary in size between species from 7-25 cm diameter. They contain 80-200 large, edible seeds, similar to pine nuts though larger. The male cones are smaller, 4-10 cm long, and narrow to broad cylindrical, 1.5-5 cm broad.


Some of the species are relatively common in cultivation because of their distinctive, formal symmetrical growth habit. Several species are economically important for timber production and the edible seeds.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Creosote Bush

Creosote bush, Greasewood, Guamis
Scientific Name: Larrea tridentata
Family: Zygophyliaceae
Origin: Native to deserts of southeastern California, Arizona, southern Utah, western Texas, northern Mexico. Usually grows on dry plains, mesas and slopes, between s
ea level and elevations of 5,000 feet.
Sunset Zone: 10-13, 19
Light: Full sun

Soil: Sandy and poor soil types
Water: Drought tolerant. Taller, denser growth with water

Creosote, Death Valley Dunes The oldest living thing on earth is a flowering shrub called the creosote bush, found in the Mojave Desert. It is 15 metres (50 ft) in diameter. It is estimated that it started from a seed nearly 12,000 years ago.

During its lifetime the last major period of glaciation in North America came to an end, the wheel and writing were invented, and the great Egyptian and Mayan pyramids were built. The shrub is still living.

The creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) is common in the Desert Southwest. The creosote bush can be identified from its waxy green leaves and yellow flowers. These later turn to round, white wooly seed-vessels, which are the fruit of the creosote bush. In Arizona it is only found in the southern third of the state because it cannot exist above 5,000 feet of elevation. In the Phoenix area, it is the dominant desert shrub.

Many people who are new to the desert notice the peculiar odor in the desert on the rare occasions when we have rain. People who move to the Phoenix area look at each other and ask, “What is that smell?” It is the creosote bush. It is a very unique odor, and although many people don’t care for it, some seem to like it just because it conveys a positive message – RAIN! The leaves of the creosote bush are coated with a resin to prevent water loss in the hot desert. The resin of the creosote bush also protects the plant from being eaten by most mammals and insects. It is believed that the bush produces a toxic substance to keep other nearby plants from growing.

Creosote bushes are very long lived, many of them existing for one hundred years, and can grow to a height of 15 feet. There is one living creosote bush that is estimated to be nearly 12000 years old! Although some refer to the odor of the crushed leaves as the “heavenly essence of the desert,” the Spanish word for the plant, hediondilla, means “little stinker“, signifying that not everyone considers the odor heavenly or pleasing to the senses.

The creosote plant was a virtual pharmacy for Native Americans and the steam from the leaves was inhaled to relieve congestion. It was also used in the form of a medicinal tea to cure such ailments as flu, stomach cramps, cancer, coughs, colds, and others.